Whilst the Service would normally be planning for its busiest period, this year promises to be quite different with the current Coronavirus pandemic forcing cancellation of organised events, usually recommended as the safer and better-regulated option.
Concerns have been raised that this could result in homeowners taking to their gardens for a private bonfire, with the Fire Service having already seen a rise in garden fires since the Coronavirus outbreak.
Between March 23 and September 30, 2020, WYFRS has been called to 125 garden fires across the county. For the entirety of 2019 firefighters were called to 77 garden fires.
Bonfires in domestic gardens can pose the danger of spreading to nearby property, especially if not properly sited and if left unsupervised they can get out of control and cause serious injury. The use of fireworks by non-professionals also has the potential to end in disaster.
Area Manager for Fire Prevention Scott Donegan said: “We are about to enter a very unusual bonfire period whilst the country is in the midst of tackling a pandemic. We are very conscious of the potential dangers associated with people taking to their gardens to host their own bonfire.
“Handling fireworks is best left to the professionals and with public events cancelled, our plea to residents this year is to not risk being injured or having to call on the emergency services or NHS at a time when they are so desperately needed in the collective fight against Coronavirus.
“Having a bonfire at home carries the risk not only of personal injury but also of a fire spreading to your or your neighbours’ home which would be devastating for people to contend with at this time alongside the pressures that Coronavirus is already bringing to our doors.
“The Fire Service is not trying to ruin anyone’s fun and we are also downhearted not to see people being able to enjoy themselves as they usually would but we must pull together, observe the Coronavirus restrictions on gatherings across West Yorkshire, and find a way to celebrate Bonfire Night without the involvement of fire or fireworks this year.”
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Chief Superintendent Damien Miller, of West Yorkshire Police, said: “Typically, the Bonfire Night period is one of the busiest times of the year for all of the emergency services. However, this year, unlike any other year, the current restrictions and guidance in relation to the ongoing Covid19 pandemic will mean that formal events will not be taking place.
“We urge people to continue to follow the guidance and local lockdown restrictions which are in place across the majority of West Yorkshire and to avoid having fires in gardens.
“Throughout the Coronavirus pandemic, we have continued to engage with the public regarding restrictions as they have evolved and this will remain our approach. Our officers will continue to focus on engaging, explaining and encouraging with enforcement where necessary.
“Any anti-social and criminal behaviour will not be tolerated and we need our communities to help us provide information about anyone involved in this potentially dangerous behaviour.
“We want people to enjoy the celebrations and above all have a safe and fun Bonfire Night.”
John McSorley, Head of Operations (West Yorkshire) at Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust, said:
“I would like to echo the messages of our emergency service colleagues and emphasise the need for safety to be everyone’s priority. We are all living in unusual and challenging times and Bonfire Night is just one of many celebrations this year that won’t be able to go ahead as normal.
“We hope that people can find safe alternatives of celebrating and ensure they abide by the COVID-19 restrictions in place.”